Article: Start skilling ‘analytics’ to all members of the HR team: Dr Fermin Diez

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Start skilling ‘analytics’ to all members of the HR team: Dr Fermin Diez

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In an exclusive chat with People Matters, Dr. Fermin Diez - Adjunct Faculty, Singapore Management University, shares insights on digital transformation, evolution of the role of HR, and challenges facing the human resources professionals in Southeast Asia.
Start skilling ‘analytics’ to all members of the HR team: Dr Fermin Diez

Dr. Fermin Diez has over 30 years of experience in Human Resources, which includes consulting, corporate and academic roles in 40 countries in all continents.   He had worked in global companies like Deloitte, Towers Watson, PepsiCo, Freescale Semiconductor and was a Senior Partner at Mercer immediately before joining National Council of Social Service (NCSS). 

As a consultant he has advised major multinationals, large local companies and public sector organizations at the board and C-suite levels on issues related to strategy, organization structure, talent management, and rewards. He currently sits on the Board and Assessment Committee of IHRP and also on the HR Committee of National University Health Services Group (NUHSG). He co-authored two books on Strategic Human Resources and serves as adjunct professor at Singapore Management University.

In an exclusive chat with People Matters, Dr. Fermin shares insights on digital transformation, the evolution of the role of HR, and challenges for human resources professionals in Southeast Asia.

How important is digital transformation for businesses today? 

There are two aspects to this question: How important is it for businesses? Very important! Between AI, machine learning, IoT, Bots, etc., this train has left the station. Those companies better able to understand data will be winners in the future. For individuals, then, this is not optional. In the future, digital data skills will be minimum requirements.

What happens to the people who can’t or won’t go digital?

For those starting out, jump into it with both feet! For those in mid-career, wondering what to do next to not fall behind, start with the basics: Excel and Tableau, plus accounting/finance and statistics. Progress from there!

A Forrester report indicates that most of the firms operating in two of Asia’s most mature technology markets are still in the early stages of their digital transformation initiatives. Your take?

Agree. The government is putting a great deal of resources behind the smart nation. But for companies, this is a new field with relatively few experts to tap and a bewildering array of choices, many of which are untested. Plus data is not always available or, when it is, not useful. The difference I see in these two markets is a great willingness to push forward towards a more digital and data-driven future. 

HR is the key player in how a business should prepare and adapt. With respect to digital transformation, how has the role of HR evolving and how has this been translating in business terms?

Companies spend a great deal of money to analyze data in order to better understand customer preferences and trends. As was the case in the past, I am convinced HR will take a cue from Marketing and learn as much about current and potential employees as the firm currently understands about current and potential customers. It's a matter of time. As stated earlier, this will become expected of all HR professionals, not just data scientists, in a very short time.

Gartner says 67% of biz leaders agree that if their company does not become significantly digitalized by 2020, it will no longer be competitive. How successful is the typical business in undertaking the transformation process? Can you give me an overview?

The "Typical" business, at this point, is already engaged in analytics for customers and for internal processes. This is no longer news. HR has traditionally lagged these two other areas, so we are seeing slow progress so far, compared to these other areas. But it is already happening and the tipping point is likely not too far away.

To make a success of digital transformation, effective leadership and a mature organization culture are required. What is the mindset that leaders require in order to actually succeed in a digital world? And what’s HR role in here?

Not sure I agree that a mature culture is required for analytics. In fact, many analytics-savvy organizations are still in start-up mode, as they did not have to "transform" in the traditional sense. What is required is a great model of change management, both to change mindsets and to change processes. And, of course, to change the way the jobs are done which means re-skilling many folks.

Can you tell us a bit about the work you’re doing to enhance the skill of HR professionals in HR analytics?

The work I am doing is to bring the fundamentals of HR Analytics to all HR professionals, through the statistics for Comp professionals’ course I teach for WorldatWork. I teach HR Analytics, in collaboration with Tableau and a team of experts. I have done talks, podcasts, and webinars to date (and hope to continue to do so). I am authoring a book with a local and an international expert to help HR professionals realize that, to be future-ready, they must become facile with numbers and analytical thinking. "I joined HR because I am a people person, not a numbers person" may be true for many, but the second part of that sentence needs to change to "I am a people person AND a numbers person."

What are the top priorities CHROs need to tackle HR priorities to lead digitalization in their organization?

Start skilling all members of the HR team in analytical thinking. I had a recent discussion on this topic with one of the leading experts in Singapore on HR digitalization, and we both concluded that, in the next 6-12 months, the best investment HR can make in its people is to teach them Finance, statistics, and Tableau.

What are the biggest challenges for heads of HR, especially in Southeast Asia?

From where I see it, leadership development is still critical. People productivity gains via a combination of engagement, re-thinking processes and technology is a close second. And, to close the loop again on analytics, a higher success rate on hiring the right people that will produce results and stay longer in the company.

Dr. Fermin Diez will be speaking at TechHR Singapore on 28th February 2019 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Register now.

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Topics: Skilling, #Digital Transformation, #TechHR 2019

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